Mercy Health’s storefront Health Project offices serve people with little or no health insurance. Courtesy Mercy Health
Mercy Health’s Lakeshore Campus will officially unveil its new storefront social services office this Friday.
The storefront space in Shelby will host an open house at 1 p.m., at 217 Michigan Ave.
The office will give Mercy Health its second Health Project site, with the first one located in downtown Muskegon since 1995.
The Health Project was a stand-alone nonprofit social services agency, which Mercy Health acquired in 2010.
The Health Project offices are social service centers for families and individuals who have little or no health insurance.
No clinical services are offered at Health Project, but the staff works to connect people in need to health care services.
Both Health Project offices are storefront properties, because one of the Mercy Health’s goals is to make them readily accessible to people most in need of health care services.
“That is our legacy,” said Stevi Riel, Health Project operations manager. “We really pride ourselves on being an external community benefit office that is very accessible to the community.”
The new office in Oceana County will help individuals and families enroll in health coverage, whether it’s offered by the state or federal government or one of the financial assistance programs offered through the health system, according to Riel.
“We have a very robust pharmaceutical access program to help people get medications,” Riel said.
Some of the major pharma companies offer free medication programs, and Mercy Health also has a program that purchases meds for patients who qualify under the low-income guidelines.
Health Project offices can screen and enroll people into most of the programs available at the Department of Human Services, such as food stamps, state emergency relief and child care, Riel said.
“We can do it in an environment that is a little bit more one on one,” Riel said. “We actually sit down with patients and help them fill out the applications. If there are any barriers with literacy or language comprehension, the patient is guided through that process.”
The Health Project also helps people connect with Michigan Pathways to Better Health, a home-visits program for patients with two or more chronic diseases who are Medicaid or Medicare recipients.
Shelby is in the center of an extensive agricultural region that stretches over most of western Oceana County, which draws thousands of Spanish speaking migrant farm workers every year.
Two full-time staff work at the new Shelby Health Project office, and one is fluent in Spanish and English.
The office plans to add two additional full-time community health workers by the year end, Riel said.
Affordable Care Act
“We anticipate we are going to be doing a lot of enrollment into health coverage come October 1,” Riel said, referring to the start date of the health insurance exchanges that are being set up under the Affordable Care Act.
However, Riel said the Health Project is not driven by the ACA, noting that the Health Project began in 1995.
Riel added that all nonprofit hospitals in Michigan have a legal obligation to provide “community benefit” wherever they operate, and the Health Project is one way Mercy Health achieves that goal.
“We are thrilled to support the opening of this Health Project office in Oceana County,” said Jay Bryan, president/CEO of Mercy Health Lakeshore Campus. “The team provides comprehensive enrollment services for multiple programs and services currently available and helps us prepare for the opportunities found under health care reform.”
Mercy Health serves West Michigan and the lakeshore with five hospital campuses, including Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. Its facilities have a total of 800 hospital beds, 58 physician offices, more than 1,300 medical staff physicians and 7,200 other employees. It also provides hospice, home health care and long-term care services.